Meeting expectations. It doesn’t sound thrilling, or particularly hard. In fact, it sounds like the note your professor might scrawl on a “C” grade term paper: “meets expectations.” But in the world of customer service, meeting expectations—customer expectations—is more than a passing grade. It’s a slam dunk.
In the book The Effortless Experience, authors Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, and Rick Delisi found the relationship between a customer’s experience and their loyalty peaks at the point where expectations are met, and quickly levels off despite any additional “above and beyond” customer service. It turns out that the definition of “meeting expectations” is pretty straight-forward: make it easy, make it effortless. And while that can be fairly easy for any individual transaction, how do you implement that across every transaction, every customer service agent, every service channel, throughout your whole organization?
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, here’s a process that will help guide you to your solution for meeting customer expectations at scale.
Start by figuring out what your customers expect
This seems obvious, but don’t fall into the trap of assuming you already know what your customers are looking for and what they consider “easy.” Data is your closest friend at this stage—luckily there’s no shortage of data available:
- Step one: Gather your insights
Start by looking at your own dashboards and reports, and mapping out all the ways customers interact with your customer service team. How many of your customers try self-service before contacting you? What searches are they doing? How many times do they have to get in touch with you before the issue is resolved? How long do you take to respond? Try segmenting these metrics into groups (1-2 contacts, 3-4, 5+) and comparing the associated CSAT or NPS scores for the customers in those groups. What’s the effect? You might learn some surprising things about your service delivery and how customers are responding.
- Step two: Do additional research
The next step is looking at third- party research to learn more about customer preferences. Many companies mistakenly push customers to interact in the channel the company prefers, instead of the channel their customers prefer. For example, should you add chat? In a survey conducted by Forrester, 44% of respondents said that having a live person answer their questions while they were in the middle of an online purchase was one of the most important features a website could offer. Should you add voice? Even today, phone support is still a popular choice for most consumers. Channel preferences change over time, across geographies, and as your target market expands or shifts. So take stock and stay up-to-date on customer preferences.
- Step three: Use surveys and benchmarks
Lastly you can go straight to the source—your customers. Go through the feedback in comments on your CSAT surveys. Put together a customer survey that includes pointed questions about your customer’s experiences with your service department. Compare the results with other companies in your industry: How do you stack up? Look at companies in adjacent industries: Can you use their success for inspiration? Then look at companies that operate like you: How can you improve?
Improve what you can, and prepare for the rest
Now that you’ve gathered all this useful info, use it to identify the top use cases for your customers. From these use cases, choose three to five of the most frequent customer support scenarios. Look at how you can improve those scenarios to more easily meet customer expectations. Improvements might include:
- Auditing self-service
How easy is it for customers to find and use your self-service? Is it on your website or embedded in your app? Whichever the case, don’t force customers to hunt for self-service. Make it easy to find what’s needed by highlighting top articles and optimizing your content for search with tags. Do you have self-service information for all of your the top customer use cases? Conduct a quick audit to make sure. In the audit, you might even discover that a segment of your customers require a separate Help Center tailored to their specific needs.
- Exploring omnichannel
Are you providing customers with the channels they prefer? If your research showed that customers want to get in touch via chat or actually prefer phone support, the next step would be to add a new channel—a daunting task. Using an omnichannel strategy can be the answer. Incorporate the new channel into your current support system to minimize the impact on agents, and keep your customer data from all channels centralized. Then plan for a trial period and observe the outcomes. For example, with an integrated approach to self-service content and a quick follow up with live chat, you might actually see volume go down and agent productivity increase.
- Enhancing workflow
Did you set up workflows to optimize for your top use cases? If not, this is a time to redesign your macros, automations, and triggers to make those experiences flow more smoothly. Involve some of your top agents. They’ve likely dealt with these situations in the past and can improve the process by modeling off of their successful prior interactions.
Measure, adapt, rinse, and repeat
At this point, take a moment and high-five someone. You’ve made huge steps to improve your service delivery, meet customer expectations, and improve customer loyalty—all in a way that can scale with you as your team grows. Congratulations!
But, it doesn’t end here. Now it’s time to go back to the first step and look at those initial reports that you ran. These will become your measuring stick. Track your success, make any course corrections as needed, and keep improving your customer’s experience.